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On the Result of the Inquiry into the Defeat at the Battle of Spatterloo
(© Biswapriya Purkayastha)

Page 1

"Gentlemen," said the Admiral, "you must understand that what we are about to hear is absolutely top secret."

He glared round the big table, his bloodshot eyes and the braid on his uniform complementing the red-gold colours of the Imperial Space Fleet on the wall behind him.

"Our defeat at the hands...I mean tentacles...of the unspeakable !ulrq, as you all know, has been so comprehensive that we had to sue for peace Ė even though we are in every way superior to those slimy, cowardly, craven, misbegotten things."

One of the junior officers cleared his throat, as though about to speak, but fell prudently silent when the Admiral glared at him. The room was so silent that one might have heard a drop of sweat plink on the polished table.

"Before I go into the reasons for the actual defeat," the Admiral continued, "I should tell you a little about the background of the battle, because except for my immediate staff, none of you will have been told more about it than was released to the media and the masses."

He turned and pressed a button. The wall behind him lit up with a space map marked in lines of dull green and blazing yellow.

"As you all know, we have been Ė for years now Ė expanding our Empire in the direction of the realms of the unspeakable !ulrq." Everyone waited politely until he had stopped coughing. "Sooner or later, of course, this would mean that we would have to either crush them and take over their territories, or else..." he shuddered "...negotiate with them over a common border."

Everyone present shuddered in sympathy at the thought of negotiating with the unspeakable !ulrq.

"Since the second option was of course out of the question, and since the !ulrq are obviously far inferior to us in every way possible, we decided to defeat them in battle." The room filled with appreciative murmurs, which gradually tailed off into silence. "It shouldn't have been difficult, because being a peaceful race, they hardly have a space navy worth mentioning. But, still, we made preparations, including constructing our mighty new battle fleet, of which there has been so much reported in the media."

With another touch of a button, he threw up an image on the screen. "Here is one of our top secret new battleships. You will of course have heard that they were under construction, but I can wager you've never seen one before.

"As you can see, itís not the sort of metal and ceramic ship you're used to. No, it's got wings to fly on currents of charged particles, it's got faceted eyes to see throughout the spectrum, and itís even got ears to listen to radio waves in space. In fact, itís not so much a ship as an organic, spacefaring, living creature."

He indicated a thin, nervous-looking man in a white coat. "Professor Mensaman there is the genius behind the idea. He and his team decided that living, intelligent ships which could repair and reproduce themselves were the weapon of the future. Of course, the whole thing was incredibly expensive, but it was worth the effort. Imagine having a self-replicating, self-repairing fleet of sentient warships at oneís beck and call. Who could oppose us then?"

"What do the ships eat?" someone at the back asked. "They need food, donít they?"

"They eat anything." The Admiral waved a hand dismissively. "We carried enough organic matter to feed them on the way out, and once there, they could be fed on all the corpses of the unspeakable !ulrq after the battle was over. Food wasnít a problem."

"What about the crew?" the officer who had cleared his throat asked. "There was a crew, wasnít there? Or have we gone all autonomous already?"

The Admiral shot him a dirty look. "Of course, we selected and trained the crew too. They were the very best, and all volunteers. Naturally, they were only concerned with fighting, not with running the ships. The ships ran themselves."

Everyone murmured further appreciation, glancing approvingly at the man in the white coat. "Once we had the fleet ready, we just needed a casus belli. As you remember, that wasnít hard to arrange. We just waited for a meteor that we knew was going to strike one of our outer colony worlds, and declared that it was sent as a weapon by the unspeakable !ulrq. All it cost us were the lives of three thousand expendable colonists." Everyone nodded, except the officer who had cleared his throat. The Admiral made a mental note to have him demoted to Ordinary Sailor and set to scrubbing toilets as soon as the meeting was over.

[ Continue to page 2 ]

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Genre:Science Fiction
Type:Short story
Rating:5.22 / 10
Rated By:11 users
Comments: 1 user
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